November 27, 2015



Euro-Maidan’s second anniversary

KYIV – People across Ukraine marked the Day of Dignity and Freedom, a holiday commemorating the 2013 beginning of the Euro-Maidan protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych. Government officials, Maidan protest participants and ordinary citizens on November 21 held ceremonies and placed flowers at a Kyiv monument to the Heavenly Brigade – protesters who were killed in clashes with security forces during the protest. Commemorations were held in other cities as well. The Euro-Maidan protest movement began when protesters gathered in central Kyiv after Mr. Yanukovych announced he was postponing plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union and would seek closer economic ties with Russia. In February 2014, Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia and was removed from office. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko congratulated the nation on the occasion of the anniversary and announced that he had signed a packet of laws aimed at securing visa-free travel with the European Union. “I know that people are not satisfied with the quality and pace of the [post-Euro-Maidan] changes,” Mr. Poroshenko said in a written statement. “The reforms that have been begun have not yet brought about an improvement in living standards. But war has never brought about flourishing. We have endured and are enduring both military action on our territory and far-reaching economic aggression from Russia.” (RFE/RL)

U.S. Embassy remembers Euro-Maidan

KYIV – Two years ago on a cold November night, a call to action on Facebook by a young journalist sparked a series of events that culminated in Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity, noted the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. On the second anniversary of the Euro-Maidan, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv released a special video message reminding viewers around the world about what brought thousands onto Kyiv’s Maidan: the Ukrainian people’s conviction that Ukraine is Europe. The English-language video is available here: (U.S. Embassy Kyiv)

Parliaments ratify Association Agreement

KYIV –President Petro Poroshenko said the parliaments of all European Union member states have completed the process of ratifying the bloc’s Association Agreement with Ukraine. Mr. Poroshenko tweeted that, with the agreement’s ratification by the Brussels regional Parliament and a Belgian-language commission on November 20, all 28 member states have now approved Ukraine’s pact with the European Union. He said in a second tweet that “[The] EU just informed us that all is ready to launch a free trade zone with Ukraine as of Jan. 1, 2016.” The EU is already Ukraine’s biggest trading partner, with Kyiv conducting more than one-third of its trade with EU members. Ukraine signed the political portion of the Association Agreement with Brussels in March 2014, and the economic section three months later. In September 2014, the establishment of a Ukrainian-EU free-trade zone was postponed until December 31, 2015, after complaints from Russia. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said during a visit to Kyiv last week that the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) agreement will “send a powerful signal that the regulatory environment in Ukraine is modern and efficient.” The EU will gradually lift tariffs and other trade barriers as Ukraine meets conditions set forth in the DCFTA. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by TASS and

Ethnic Poles repatriated from conflict zone

KROLEWO MALBORSKIE, Poland – A group of ethnic Poles from Ukraine’s conflict-torn eastern region of Donetsk has arrived in Poland. The group, numbering 188 people, was met by Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo on their arrival from Ukraine in the northern town of Krolewo Malborskie late on November 23. “Welcome home. We will do everything we can to make you feel safe in the country that is yours now,” she told them. The ethnic Poles, from Mariupol, a port city near separatist-held areas on the Azov Sea, arrived aboard four planes. They will be housed for the first six months at a health facility near the city of Olsztyn, where they will undergo intensive Polish language training. This is the second group of ethnic Poles to leave Ukraine and return to Poland since the conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine in early 2014. (RFE/RL’s Russian Service)

Russian top court upholds Sentsov verdict

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia – When asked upon his sentencing before a Russian military court in Rostov-on-Don on August 25 whether he understood the charges against him, Oleh Sentsov and co-defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko, who received a 10-year sentence, sang Ukraine’s national anthem. On November 24, Mr. Sentsov declined to testify. “I have nothing to say,” he said at the hearing before the Russian Supreme Court in Moscow. “This is a dull television show.” Mr. Sentsov, a native of Crimea, was arrested in May 2014 on suspicion of planning the fire-bombings of two pro-Russian organizations. After being convicted on August 25, the 39-year old said that a “trial by occupiers cannot be fair by definition.” The Supreme Court on November 24 upheld the 10-year sentence of co-defendant Mr. Kolchenko as well. The prosecution of Messrs. Sentsov and Kolchenko has been widely criticized as retaliation for their outspoken opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. A U.N. resolution overwhelmingly asserted in 2014 that the peninsula remained part of Ukraine, although Russian authorities have installed their own institutions and exercise day-to-day control. Mr. Sentsov is an internationally acclaimed film director whose first feature film, “Gamer,” about a computer-game-obsessed teenager, was presented at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012. EU lawmakers in September urged Russia to release Messrs. Sentsov and Kolchenko, calling their detentions a “blatant violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine” through “illegal kidnapping.” Icons of European cinema last week made a public plea to famed Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov, a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to lobby for Sentsov’s release. “It is our responsibility – as filmmakers and as human beings – to stand up for human rights and the freedom of speech. Please raise your voice and support us in our support of Oleg Sentsov,” prominent members of the European Film Academy wrote to Mr. Mikhalkov in the November 20 letter. The four signatories were Polish directors Agnieszka Holland and Andrzej Wajda, as well as German filmmakers Wim Wenders and Volker Schloendorff. Separately, legendary Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski last week published a letter addressed to Mr. Mikhalkov in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborza, writing: “I believe that you do not think and feel differently [from] all the great artists from many countries who signed letters regarding our Ukrainian colleague to President Putin.” He also noted: “The cruelty of [the] trial brings to mind the darkest judgments of the past of our common civilization and culture. I appeal to you and I beg you, as your Polish brother, to do something. Among all of us, you are the person closest to your president and the case.” (RFE/RL, with reporting by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, TASS and

Savchenko attorneys face prosecution 

OTTAWA – Mark Feygin and Nikolai Polozov, attorneys for Nadiya Savchenko are facing criminal prosecution for publicizing materials in Russia’s illegal trial of Ms. Savchenko, Radio Svoboda reported, according to a news update from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Mr. Feygin stated, “There is an attempt to charge Polozov and me with a crime for revealing information about the testimony of Plotnitsky. A separate decision on the prosecution of Feygin and Polozov will be submitted together with the verdict.” Mr. Polozov stated, “The criminal persecution of Feygin and me – is revenge of the authorities for an independent and honest defense of Savchenko. It wasn’t enough to abduct and illegally detain Savchenko as a hostage, they’ve now decided to pressure the defense.” On November 18, the court heard testimony from Igor Plotnitsky, leader of the so-called Luhansk Peoples’ Republic. The court ruled that his testimony be heard in-camera. Ms. Savchenko was serving in eastern Ukraine when she was abducted by Kremlin-backed terrorists in June 2014 and taken to Russia, where she has been illegally detained and imprisoned since that time. Russia has ignored repeated calls from the international community for her immediate release. (Ukrainian Canadian Congress)

Ukraine flag attached to Moscow skyscraper 

MOSCOW – Police in Moscow have detained three people after they attached Ukraine’s national flag to scaffolding on a Stalin-era skyscraper. The stunt took place on November 23, two years after the start of the Euro-Maidan protests that ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. In August of last year, five Russian men and women held a similar stunt in which a Soviet red star atop the same building was painted in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. A Moscow court found one of the activists guilty of hooliganism and vandalism, and sentenced him to 27 months in prison. The other four were acquitted. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by and Interfax)

Fitch upgrades Ukraine’s credit rating

OTTAWA – On November 18, Fitch Ratings upgraded Ukraine’s long-term foreign currency rating (IDR) from Restricted Default to CCC and the short-term IDR from Restricted Default to C. According to a news updated from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Fitch stated, “The country has emerged from default on commercial external debt, issuing new bonds on November 12 to holders of $15 billion (U.S.) in defaulted Eurobonds. …Public debt sustainability has improved. Reduced refinancing needs and a pipeline of official financing give the public and external finances some breathing room and lower the risk of a sovereign debt crisis over the short- to medium-term.” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress)

Yatsenyuk on Ukraine’s trade status

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine stated on November 18 that the free trade agreement between Ukraine and the European Union will come into effect on January 1, 2016. He also stated that losses from a trade embargo by Russia on Ukraine are estimated at about $600 million for 2016. News of his comments was reported by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in its “Crisis in Ukraine: Daily Briefing.” Mr. Yatsenyuk stressed the need to develop a joint plan with the EU on overcoming the negative effects of Russia’s economic aggression, “We are looking forward to a joint position of the European Union and Ukraine in this matter, as after January 1 Ukraine and the European Union will be in the common trade area.” (Ukrainian Canadian Congress)

Russia to ban food imports from Ukraine

MOSCOW – Russia has announced it will ban all food imports from Ukraine starting on January 1. Russian Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev told TV channel Rossia-24 on November 18 that Russia was taking the action “because Ukraine has joined the sanctions against the Russian Federation – economic and financial.” Russia has been slapped with Western sanctions for annexing Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. More than 7,900 people have died in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to UN estimates. Moscow, which denies any role in the conflict, has already imposed its own food bans on the European Union, the United States and other Western countries. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the pending Russian action will cost Ukraine’s economy some $600 million in 2016. On the other hand, Mr. Yatsenyuk noted the Ukrainian economy was now less dependent on Russia. “While earlier our dependence was 35 percent, now it’s at the level of 12.5 percent,” Yatsenyuk said on November 18, according to a statement on his cabinet’s website. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by AFP and DPA)

Russia to halt gas supplies to Ukraine

MOSCOW – Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak says Moscow will cut gas supplies to Ukraine for Kyiv’s failure to pay up front for deliveries and might also suspend coal shipments to Ukraine in retaliation for a power blackout of Crimea. Mr. Novak said on November 24 that the gas deliveries will be stopped “today or tomorrow due to the lack of advance payment by Ukraine,” adding that Russia could retaliate “politically and economically” unless Kyiv restores electricity supplies to Crimea. Russian-annexed Crimea continues to rely on emergency generators to meet its basic power needs after unknown saboteurs blew up electricity pylons supplying the peninsula with electricity, in Ukraine’s Kherson region over the weekend. Pro-Ukrainian activists have so far prevented repairs to the damaged pylons and associated power lines. The Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov said on November 23 that just one of the four damaged transmission towers could be repaired at the moment. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)

Another mosque is robbed in Crimea 

SUDAK, Ukraine – Unknown individuals have robbed a mosque in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia last year. The Spiritual Directorate of Crimea’s Muslims said on November 19 that intruders broke into the Yangy Maale Mosque near the town of Sudak earlier in the week and stole the donation box. According to the directorate, it was the eighth reported mosque robbery in Crimea since the beginning of 2015. On November 14, unknown assailants threw dozens of bricks at the windows of a mosque in the village of Zavet-Leninsky. And in September, posters depicting the Grand Mosque being constructed in Crimea’s capital, Symferopol, were vandalized. The majority of Crimea’s Muslims are Crimean Tatars. Many of them have openly protested Crimea’s annexation by Russia in March 2014. (Crimean Desk, RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service)

Russian text to be eliminated from IDs

KYIV – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has asked the government to replace Russian-language text with English text in Ukrainian identification documents. Mr. Poroshenko said on November 19 that the request came after a petition from Ukrainians demanding the change to documents that are known as internal passports. Most internal passports in Ukraine currently carry text in Ukrainian and Russian. A resident of the western city of Lviv, Sviatoslav Litynskyi, filed a lawsuit in early 2015 against a local passport agency, demanding an internal passport with text in Ukrainian only. He won the case in May and received such a passport in August. RFE/RL, based on reporting by UNIAN and TASS)